Today In Fact, 13 June

Today is a day in which misunderstanding and protest politics merged to create history. Martin Luther, an excommunicated monk married Katharina von Bora, a nun today in 1525. Katie, as Luther called her had been professed to a nunnery at the tender age of 5 and she and a group of similarly professed nuns escaped their nunnery, with Luther’s assistance in herring barrels. The Luther family went on to produce at least six children. Clearly Martin and Katie were Protestants against celibacy.

Another protestant leader, this time a Voortrekker protesting against British suzerainty in the Cape; Hendrik Potgieter, bartered cattle today in 1838 for land between the Vet and Vaal rivers with a local chief in the Free State. Chief Bakwana of the Bataung would not have understood the terms the barter as land was not regarded as something that could be privately owned.

There was no misunderstanding among Indians in South Africa today in 1946 because it marks the start of the non-violent Indian Passive Resistance campaign led by Y. M. Dadoo and Dr. G. M. Naicker against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act (“Ghetto Act”), enacted by the Smuts Government. The Campaign would lead to the merger of the Indian Congress with the African National Congress in the 1950’s.

Not all protest is non-violent, some turn to armed insurrection. After a highly publicized trial, Nelson Mandela arrived today in Robben Island in 1964 to begin what would become his 27 years in jail. Mandela had been found guilty of treason the day before in Pretoria.

The Apartheid regime misunderstood and miscalculated the level of resistance against them and their repressive regime. Today in 1976, the Naledi branch of the SA Students Movement holds a meeting in Soweto, attended by representatives of all Soweto schools, at which it is decided that protests will be held on June 16 against the use of Afrikaans in education.

Today however I would like to mark the birthday in 1922 of a sublime Afrikaans author, Etienne Leroux. He wrote many good books but for me his book; Magersfontein O Magersfontein, is a classic

Perhaps no other writer in Afrikaans could move South African literature during the apartheid era from the farm mythology of Olive Shreiner to the lunacy of state intervention in creating history.

The plot is simple: a group of individuals with state support try to recreate the Boer War battle of Magersfontein. Pretty much everything goes wrong.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of what South African surrealism looked like during the height of apartheid. This excellent satire is full of sharp, angry sarcasm, and some very funny half-page portraits of people: a narcissistic Greek author; a prudish traffic policeman; two Lords, Sudden and Seldom; a poor Boer man — and about twenty others, very well drawn.

It won prizes and was, of course banned. But then that’s what misunderstanding and protest will do.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (